6 years ago

Feel the exasperation of government-run healthcare in this Alabama mom’s open letter to President Obama

The Kinders (Photo: Facebook)
The Kinder family (Photo: Facebook)

Just before Christmas, Karri Kinder, a married mother of two living in Auburn, Ala., penned the below open letter to the Obama Administration.

If you haven’t experienced it for yourself already, feel the exasperation of a mom trying to navigate the ObamaCare bureaucratic nightmare in hopes of securing coverage for her family.

An Open Letter to the Obama Administration and American Citizens:

My family’s journey with securing our new insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) started on October 1, 2013. I have decided to write this letter to let the American people know what it has been like for us. We are a family of four, with two little boys’ ages seven years old and three years old. My husband and I have had full time jobs for 6 years and 13 years respectively. We have been with the same two companies for those years. We are a middle class family; we own our three bedroom two bath house, we own two cars, and previously provided our own insurance for the four of us. We have coverage through Individual Blue from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama until 12/31/13. Our premiums have been $380.00 a month, which also included dental coverage for all four of us.

On October, 1, 2013 we received our letters like other Alabamians about our new premiums and plans for 2014 from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Alabama. When I opened our letter to say I had sticker shock was an understatement. Our premiums for the Blue Saver Silver would now be $753.26. This included the ACA tax but did not include the additional $75.00 we would need to pay in order to keep dental for me and my husband. So we would need to pay total $828.26 to keep health and dental insurance for the four of us. This payment is roughly $64.00 less than what we pay for our mortgage each month. I was outraged that anyone thought we could afford this. Sure we have some savings, but with that price tag we would whittle it down to almost nothing very quickly. I consider savings as a rainy day fund, a start to saving for the kid’s college, our retirement, etc. I never dreamed in a million years we would need to use it to pay our insurance premiums each month – how in the world could this help the economy too?

Throughout the month of October we read everything we could on what our plan would cover, and tried to get the information we needed about the ACA. I was also blown away when I realized that my son’s medical care, he has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), would cost us so much more out of pocket than it was currently costing us. My son has to go to his doctor every other month for his care. If we need to see a therapist we do that monthly, so you see on top of the premiums there are other out of pocket cost we have to factor in. He is also on medication that he takes daily. His medicine is a life saver for him and helps him function like a normal seven year old, without it he can’t focus, his grades slip and his mind literally goes back to the mind of a three or four year old. When he was first put on his medicine his reading went up 20 points and he went from writing one to two sentences to paragraphs, all in the course of a week. He is a straight A student and very bright, but without the proper medical care that could slip away from him. Under our new plan for 2014 we would need to pay a $55.00 co-pay, and then it would be covered at 80 percent once we reached his deductible, which would be $2,000 individual $4,000 family. Out of pocket max numbers are $6,350 individual and $12,700 family. All of this is enough to make anyone’s head spin. We were then forced to look at other options as none of this was affordable for our family.

I started to dig deeper into healthcare.gov. I was hearing all the horror stories through the news about the subpar website. I was reading right off their healthcare.gov Facebook page about other people’s terrible experiences trying to get coverage. Then the government announces that they are going to be working on the site and making it a better experience as well as making it more secure. They had already had three years to make this happen but they said would need the month of November to get it running right. So I waited patiently for them to get the site running so I could see if we would qualify for the subsidy and continue our health insurance through that route.

December 6, 2013 I went to healthcare.gov and started our application. The process took me over two hours to complete. Once it was completed it came back with our results. The results were that my husband and I qualified. That my three year old qualified for All Kids and that my seven year old did not qualify for anything through the exchange (ACA). I was so confused, how could a seven year old not qualify for a subsidy? I was also confused on why they wanted me to enroll one of my children in All Kids? So, I called the number they provided to speak to a representative. I was on hold for 20 minutes when a woman answered and offered to help me with the results. She told me that it is coming back that my seven year old son did not qualify and the only thing I could do was to file an appeal. I asked her a few more questions about how this could have happened, and I was told “she does not know and that all I can do is file an appeal”. She was reading her responses to me right off of a chart that I am sure they are given. So, I ended my conversation with her and proceeded to try to wrap my head around what was happening.

I decided to call back, this time I waited 15 minutes and spoke to a very nice gentleman who seemed to have an understanding for how the system was working. He looked up the results and said “this can’t be right, let’s start over and do an application over the phone”. So again I went through the application process. The results came back the exact same, we all qualified for something except my seven year old son. The gentleman could not understand how this could be happening and assured me it had to be a “glitch” in the system. He placed me on hold so he could speak with his supervisor on how to fix this error. I waited several minutes and when he came back he said “there was nothing more they could do tonight”. He said “we are sending your application to two different departments and that one of the departments would get back to me through a phone call with a fix to this problem”. He also told me “it could take 2-5 days but that I would receive a phone call when they had closed my case”.

So I waited until Tuesday December 10, 2013, which was day four and called them back. I was then told it would be 2-5 business days and if I had not heard from them at that time to call back. So that is what I did, I waited till 9:00 pm on that Friday December 13, 2013 with no phone call. I called Sunday December 15th, 2013 and spoke with my 3rd supervisor who told me “they were very sorry that I had not received a phone call and they were messaging the two departments to give me a call the following day”. He also said to go ahead and file with All Kids in my state because even though they send that information to them, they have no idea when they will receive it. So Monday I went and applied for All Kids for my children, it was a similar application to the healthcare.gov site. I called them to verify that they received my application and was told they cannot access it till sometime in January. They said once they could access it that they would be in touch and if the kids qualified the coverage would retro act to January 1, 2014. So that was a little bit of good news.

So here we are December 22, 2013, the day before the December 23rd deadline to sign up through the Health Insurance Marketplace’s Exchange. I decide I will call one last time to see what they can tell me about coverage, since I never received a phone call after my last conversation with a supervisor. I waited on hold for 1 hour and 15 minutes. I asked to speak with a supervisor and I was transferred. The supervisor pulled my file and was talking to me when she must have accidentally pressed a button and we got disconnected. I thought for sure she would call me back. That is one of the first things they ask for is your phone number. I did not receive a call back, so I call back and have to be placed on hold again to speak to someone. I waited another hour and a half before I get connected with a supervisor. She pulls up my file and tells me “there is nothing they can do and I have to wait the 90 days they have to contact me through the appeals process”. The supervisor tells me “that this whole time I have been told wrong by numerous people and that I should have been called back but that the two departments could do nothing for me”. I just have to wait the 90 days. I asked her, “so yet again an error, due to no fault of my own, has occurred all these times I have been calling and speaking with people and no one can really do anything”? She said “yes that is correct, I am sorry you have been told something different but that is all I can tell you”.

I have never been treated so poorly by any insurance company in my whole life. I have never experienced such terrible customer service in all my years on this earth. I can’t imagine how long a company would last in this country if they followed the same protocol as the ACA/Health Insurance Marketplace does. Most companies can fix a glitch in their systems pretty easily, or can connect you to someone who can. Not the ACA/ Health Insurance Marketplace, you spend all that time on hold to just be told, so sorry but you have to wait for someone to get back to you in a 90 day time span.

What is the most sickening thing to me is that we have been forced into the Health Insurance Marketplace’s Exchange. We wanted to continue our coverage through BSBC and pay as we always had been. But, we found out that option would not be affordable under the new Act, which is how we were forced into the Exchange. Furthermore, not only were we forced into the Exchange, but then forced again to submit an application to ALL Kids for our children. I just don’t understand how we go from being hard working middle class family who provides everything for our family to where we are today. I feel like everything that my husband and I have worked hard for is for nothing. I pray each night that we will get something resolved with our “glitch” in the system so our children will have health insurance coverage in January and by the time I have to purchase my son’s $400 a month ADHD medicine.

I really don’t know how our government can allow this to be taking place. What if something happens and one of my boys breaks an arm, or God forbid something worse? They don’t have insurance, so I guess we will then be paying the hospital monthly if that happens. We are almost completely debt free currently and now all I see is very large medical bills in our future until the government can fix the issues with the ACA/Exchange. I would really like them to rename the Affordable Care Act, because from where I am sitting it is anything but affordable or caring for my family.

Sincerely,
Karri Kinder


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1 hour ago

Red Eagle now among top shotgun ranges in South

When the 200 shooters in the Alabama 4-H State Shotgun Championship arrive in April at the Red Eagle Skeet and Trap Club on the outskirts of Childersburg, Alabama, those participants will be able to compete at one of the top shotgun shooting facilities in the South.

Because of its long history of working with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Hunter Safety Program, Red Eagle was able to partner with the Division to upgrade its facilities to international-level standards through the use of matching federal funds from the Pittman-Robertson Act.

For those not familiar with the Pittman-Robertson Act, it levies an excise tax on firearms, ammunition and hunting equipment. Funds from Pittman-Robertson go to states based on land mass and the number of hunting licenses sold. The funds are used for a variety of wildlife conservation efforts, hunter education and the development, maintenance and improvement to shooting ranges.

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Red Eagle is a club open to the public with a mission of firearms safety and youth development. The facility is open to the public four days a week – Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Members have access to the facility seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Club Manager Tommy McGilberry said the club, formed in 1956, understands the contribution hunters make to the shooting sports, so they offer license holders a reduced fee structure due to this partnership with the Division.

“We let anyone who has an Alabama hunting license shoot here as a guest for only $1 more than members,” said McGilberry, who joined the club in 1974. “Members pay $5, and those with a hunting license pay $6. That’s quite an advantage for the people of Alabama to be able to come out here and shoot at a facility like this for a reasonable price.”

And for that low price, shooters can gain access to a world-class facility.

“Right now, we’re trying to come online with our bunker trap,” McGilberry said. “We’re trying to get the bunker dug to get that into operation. This will give somebody in Alabama the opportunity to start shooting in the 9th grade with the 4-H program and make it all the way to the Olympics with the equipment we have here. This will be the only place in Alabama with a bunker trap. The closest places now are Nashville, Fort Benning (Georgia) or Gainesville, Florida. Since we are centrally located, this will give Alabama a great asset for people to come here and shoot while they’re young.”

McGilberry, who served as a shooting coach in the U.S. Army and competed in international skeet from 1991 to 2003, said the shooting sports could be the perfect activity for those who don’t have the skills for other sports.

“All you have to have is hand-eye coordination and a place to practice,” he said. “If you’ve got the facility and you’ve got the talent, you can be an Olympian; you can be a champion.”

McGilberry was recruited by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service to coordinate firearms safety instruction in the 4-H program. During McGilberry’s years, the program has expanded immensely from just firearms safety to intense competition. McGilberry worked with two interns during that process – Marisa Futral and Shannon Andress. Futral is now the Alabama WFF Hunter Education Coordinator and Andress is the coordinator for the Alabama 4-H Shooting Program.

Angus MacGreigor, an Alabama professor, coach of the Alabama Shotgun Shooting Team and competitor in international shooting, said the Pittman-Robertson funds have paid great dividends.

“As the 4-H program has grown, the club (Red Eagle) needed to grow as well,” MacGreigor said. “It needed to update its machinery so it could throw competition birds to train the shooters so they could go on to shoot the 4-H National Championships or for the Alabama or Auburn shooting teams or to shoot competitively around the world.”

The new machines are current, cutting-edge machines able to throw targets that meet national standards on six fields of skeet and three fields of trap.

“The return on the investment is that we have five 4-H teams that are training out of Red Eagle now,” MacGreigor said. “We are also the home of the Alabama 4-H State Shotgun Championship (April 17-19) with 200 shooters. The team that wins that championship will go on to the 4-H National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska.”

Adam McNutt, who shoots for the St. Clair County team, competed in last year’s 4-H National Championships and finished in sixth place overall among 200 of the top high school shooters in the country.

McNutt, who signed to become a member of the Alabama Shotgun Shooting Team in January, joined Auburn Shotgun Shooting Team member Brian Lansdell for a round of practice last week.

Lansdell is the exception to the typical participant in the shooting sports. He has shown that a successful shooting career can start a little later in life.

“I’m a little different in that I come from a family that doesn’t like guns too much,” Lansdell said. “I didn’t even know about 4-H shooting. I shot a little bit, but I really didn’t start shooting until I got to Auburn. Even if you don’t grow up shooting, you can come to Auburn or Alabama, join a shooting team and get really good at it. I started out breaking from five to eight birds out of a round of 25. Now I’m shooting in the 90s (out of 100) in competition. As long as you get out there and practice, you can get good at anything you want to do. Being on the Auburn team is the best thing about going to Auburn for me. It’s a great group of guys and girls to hang out with and represent the school in something you love to do. It’s a ton of fun.”

McNutt, on the other hand, started shooting when he was in the fifth grade.

“We had a 4-H representative come to school and talk to us about 4-H,” McNutt said. “When you think about 4-H, you think about livestock shows and stuff like that. But they happened to mention a shotgun program. Coming up shooting birds and hunting, I thought that was interesting.”

A four-man team was formed, and the shooters excelled to the point of competing on the national level.

After signing with Alabama, McNutt went with the team to the Lower East Coast Regional in Savannah, Georgia, recently.

“It was really a fun experience, and it makes me feel proud to be a part of the team,” he said. “Alabama has a such a reputation around the country because of sports. To be on a team at Alabama is a proud feeling. It’s amazing.”

During his years of coaching the St. Clair team, Joel McNutt has been able to watch his son develop his shooting skills.

“4-H is where it all starts,” Joel said. “I’ve been coaching the team for eight years now. We have kids come through every year who start through a 4-H program or other youth programs, and they go from there. It’s amazing how far they can go once they get started. Like when our team started, we’d come out to shoot here for our very first competition. The kids shot and had a good time. They heard about the national competition and were talking about how great that would be to shoot in it. You think it would be great, but you don’t realize at the time it’s possible. Having a facility like this, with the equipment they have here to allow us to practice, it made it possible. The four kids we started with eight years ago, they all made it to the national competition. It was surreal to see them be able to do that, to see them start so young, go through the process and then achieve their goals of making it to the nationals.”

MacGreigor suggested that an Iron Bowl for shotgun shooting might be in the future because of the natural competitiveness between the two schools.

“If you look at the statistics, the shooting teams from Alabama and Auburn are not that far apart,” MacGreigor said. “Although there is not an official shooting Iron Bowl, there is a little Iron Bowl at every competition we go to.”

MacGreigor also expects the number of shooting teams to grow as the word gets out.

“Because of funding to purchase new machinery and infrastructure and because of the success of some of our shooters on the Auburn and Alabama teams, we’re getting parents who are driving their kids up at nighttime to participate and start a team for their areas,” he said. “We’re starting to see an explosion of towns wanting to build teams, and this is the facility they would use. But it wouldn’t be possible without the Pittman-Robertson dollars and the volunteers at Red Eagle. This is really a metaphor for life – the lessons they are learning in shooting apply to academia. They apply to a job. It is developing and building a process to achieve the desired outcome.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

14 hours ago

Livingston, Whatley elected to lead Alabama Space Authority

The Alabama Space Authority this week held a meeting, respectively electing State Senators Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) and Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) as chair and vice-chair of the body.

Both senators, who were appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) to the authority, plan to work diligently towards making Alabama a leader in the space industry, according to a joint release.

The Alabama Space Authority was created in 2017 to promote research and development of new space exploration and spaceport technology; to sponsor conference and business roundtables within the aerospace, aviation and related industries; and to promote activities and industries related to exploration.

The authority includes representatives of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alabama Department of Transportation, the governor, the State legislature and other stakeholders and experts.

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Livingston, who recently played a leading role in the creation of the legislature’s Aerospace and Defense Caucus and serves as its chair, stated that the Alabama Space Authority will be looking into how the Yellowhammer State can further improve this industry.

“We are looking into the possibility of the Dream Chaser being able to land in Huntsville,” Livingston said. “This is going to be a great opportunity to look into how the legislature can aide in supporting the aerospace and defense industry in Alabama.”

Whatley added that he was honored to be selected as vice-chair and that space is a growing industry in Alabama.

“I’m proud to be a member … because this is a big deal for our entire state, from Huntsville to Auburn’s aerospace programs and to the robust aircraft manufacturing on the coast. Aerospace is a $12 billion industry and a key component to Alabama’s economy,” Whatley commented.

Livingston concluded by advising he expects to receive an update from the U.S. Space Command and is looking forward to bringing more space industry projects to Alabama.

RELATED: Ainsworth in Huntsville: Alabama is ‘the aerospace capital of the world’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Lewis touts McCutcheon; Brooks touts Trump, his record with space and defense

Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) this week endorsed Chris Lewis in the GOP primary race in the Fifth Congressional District.

The surprise endorsement by McCutcheon caught many in the state off-guard because this race has flown under the radar and polling shows this race, like all of U.S. Representative Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) previous primaries, handily in the bag.

But McCutcheon’s endorsement rightly got the attention of multiple media outlets and observers of Alabama politics with many wondering what this was really all about.

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So when Brooks saw the endorsement and a hostage-style video promoting it by McCutcheon, Brooks responded by highlighting the most coveted endorsement a Republican candidate for any office could get: President Donald Trump.

Brooks told Yellowhammer News:

I have the strong endorsement of President Trump, a man I worked hard with to CUT TAXES on American families and secure America’s borders! In contrast, Chris Lewis has the endorsement of legislator Mac McCutcheon, whose greatest expertise has been RAISING TAXES on struggling Alabama families!

While speaking to WVNN on Friday, Brooks noted that the endorsement on the bounds of support from the space and defense industry is laughable.

“If Mac McCutcheon is saying that Chris Lewis has more support in Research Park, that is categorically false. We have received more support from the state and defense community, vastly, vastly, vastly, vastly more support from the state and defense community than Chris Lewis has,” he told “The Dale Jackson Show.”

Brooks also touted his seniority, and how that plays into serving his district in Washington, D.C.

“The people who engage in space and defense know that my growing seniority on science, space, and technology and on House Armed Services, coupled with more than a hundred occasions in which I’ve been able to get favorable language into legislation that they’ve wanted me to get for the benefit of our country and what we do in the Tennessee Valley,” he added. “They’re my primary support base in Congress: space and defense.”​

My takeaway:

This is all pretty interesting, but the idea that a McCutcheon endorsement on these grounds can overcome the booming North Alabama economy that Brooks has been a part of since being part of the Tea Party-wave in 2010 is false.

The Trump endorsement might make better television and radio spots, and it will definitely help Brooks, but the real issue is that Lewis and McCutcheon can’t point to how Brooks hasn’t served his district well — because he has.

Barring some massive bombshell to follow up this endorsement, a battle of endorsements between Trump and McCutcheon seems like a fight that was over before it started, much like the Brooks/Lewis race.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

16 hours ago

Human clinical study begins at UAB for groundbreaking brain tumor treatment

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) continues to evolve as a worldwide leader in biomedicine, research and innovation.

Incysus Therapeutics, Inc., a Birmingham-based biopharmaceutical company, has now announced the initiation of a Phase 1 clinical study of a novel Drug Resistant Immunotherapy (DRI) technology for the treatment of patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma.

This trial is being conducted at UAB and is now active and open for enrollment.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM or glioblastoma) is a devastating and fast-growing brain tumor that typically results in death within the first 15 months after diagnosis. GBM is inherently resistant to conventional therapy and accounts for approximately 52% of all primary brain tumors.

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A release from the company outlined Incysus’ innovative DRI approach, which seeks to combine conventional chemotherapies with a γδ T cell-based immunotherapy to modify the tumor microenvironment and drive the immune system. By using alkylating agents such as temozolomide, chemotherapy can activate immunity through the upregulation of the DNA damage response (DDR) pathway. A significant challenge is that such chemotherapies also kill the white blood cells needed to drive an immune response. Incysus’ technology “chemo-protects” immune cells to allow them to remain functional while DDR activation creates an immune signal that allows directed killing activity against cancer cells.

Incysus is the first company to use this type of therapy in patients, and the research marks a landmark moment for Incysus, the overall biotech industry in Birmingham and anti-cancer research across the globe.

Dr. L. Burt Nabors, MD, the co-head of neuro-oncology at UAB and the study’s principal investigator, stated, “The initiation of this clinical trial represents a significant milestone towards developing effective immune-based therapies for the treatment of GBM. We are pleased to work with … the team at Incysus to bring this innovative therapy to patients for the first time.”

Further information on the clinical trial is available here.

Incysus is a UAB spinoff company. Its success in the Magic City — and this kind of potentially revolutionary research spearheaded by UAB — is a prime example of why many legislative and industry leaders in the state, especially in the Birmingham area, are calling on Governor Kay Ivey to fund a world-class genomics facility at the university. They argue that the project could make Birmingham the “Silicon Valley of Biomedicine.”

RELATED: Planned UAB genomics project could make Birmingham the ‘Silicon Valley of Biomedicine’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Amendment One puts kids first, politicians last

When Alabamians take the to the polls on Super Tuesday, they will either be concerned with the Democratic nominee for President of the United States or the Republican nominee for the United States Senate. More important to the future of Alabama is a constitutional amendment that would end our current model of a popularly elected state school board in favor of one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate.

Supporters of Amendment 1 argue that this would be a major step in improving Alabama’s permanent residence at the bottom of the education barrel. As it is currently designed and managed, the state board of education is doing very little to improve the quality of education in the state. Board members are trying, but clearly nothing is working very well. Supporters of the amendment argue a shake up is the best hope for improving education in Alabama. In some respects the argument does not go far enough. That is because the current process creates negative incentives for board members; because they hold their office at the behest of voters, there is every incentive for them to avoid upsetting their constituents.

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That is the chief problem with the board as it is currently construed. Board members are not uncaring or ignorant or irresponsible. Instead, they respond to the whims and wishes of voters or other powerful political interests. No matter what politicians say, they are inevitably swayed by the whispers of voters and donors. Not because they are corrupt, but because they are human. All people are prone to this, which is why the framers of the Constitution created a system that checked and balanced one human tendency against another. It’s true that voters can provide a check on board members, but that argument does not account for an additional problem.

The second problem with the current system is that voters have limits to their knowledge about education in our state. Committed parents and citizens can often learn a lot about their own schools and school districts, but rarely does even the most passionate citizen have the time and mental energy to devote beyond that. Should Amendment 1 pass, the state Senate would have a direct responsibility to ensure that the governor appoints quality people to the board, but also to make certain that the Board is making progress in evaluating and improving the quality of education in our state.

Critics argue that an appointed board would lend itself to cronyism. That’s possible, but the executive and legislative branch often have competing interests, even when they share the same partisan and ideological commitments. Those competing concerns would help smooth over concerns about patronage and cronyism. Still, the amendment will not be an easy transition given the natural tendency of politicians towards vanity and self-promotion. The current system is of a worse nature, however, as it leaves the governor and senate almost powerless to impact education policy, which is instead run by another group of politicians with little incentive to do anything that might upset the voters who put them there.

But shouldn’t voters have a say in these matters? No, at least not directly. This is because education policy is a difficult matter, and it is hard for voters to adjudicate the success or failures of these policies beyond the very narrow window of their own experience. It’s fine that we elect local school boards; they are indeed local, and voters often see those board members at church or line at Piggly Wiggly. Only the most politically involved voters are likely to have any encounter with their board members, who are busy juggling very difficult conflicts within their own districts. Each district contains such a variety of constituents that it is almost impossible for board members to adequately address those concerns, instead pandering to the one or two constituencies most likely to keep the member in office.

There is a final reason to support Amendment 1. A central feature of modern politics is the tendency of politicians to see themselves as mouthpieces instead of statesmen. Some of that is natural but other parts of it are due to the incentive structure within our own government. This is as true in Montgomery as it is in Washington D.C., and Alabamians should care far more about the goings-on in our state capital than in our nation’s capital. Since our legislature is stripped of any real influence in state education policy and therefore little accountability to voters, it leaves them free to demagogue and pander on the issue without really having to stand before the voters and take account for their time in office. The same is true for the governor. By making the governor and the state senate responsible for staffing the state school board as part of an ongoing process of appointment and confirmation, these branches of our government would finally have real skin in the game. The success of our schools would be their success, and the failure of our schools would be theirs, also.

Matthew Stokes, a widely published opinion writer and instructor in the core texts program at Samford University, is a Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.